Libyans Used Coded Messages on Dating Site to Thwart Government Scrutiny

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The Libyan government may have had its eye on popular social networks like Twitter and Facebook, but there was one means of communication on the web that it forgot to check.

Protesters slipped under the radar by using the Muslim dating site Mawada to send clandestine messages organizing the revolution. As revealed to ABC News, the leader of the Ekhtalef (“Difference”) Movement Omar Shibliy Mahmoudi and his revolutionaries used the website, which operates similar to Match.com, to share secrets and advice with their compatriots.

“I felt it was an obligation to use myself, to use my skills in a field of Web development and Web design to pass on the messages and inform the world,” he said to ABC News. “I’m trying to blend the best of both worlds — the Arabic and the English. … I can hopefully reach both audiences.”

Mahmoudi created a profile called “Where Is Miriam?,” in which he pretended to look for a wife. Since the site has a strict no male-to-male communication policy, his fellow male colleagues created female profiles under the names “Sweet Butterfly,” “Opener of the Mountain,” “Girl of the Desert” and “Melody of Torture.”

There, they shared poetry with codes hidden inside to make contact with new supporters and gauge how many people were in favor of the cause. They then followed up with text messages and Yahoo! Messenger chats.

Some of the codes included:

- “May your day be full of Jasmine”: A reference to the “Jasmine Revolution”

- “And the same to you. I hope you will call me”: Person was ready to help in the movement

- “I want love”: I want liberty

- “”I LLLLLove you”: Number of Ls meant how many people they knew were willing to help

- “My lady, how I want to climb this wall of silence. I want to tell the story of a million hurts. … But I am lost in a labyrinth. … Maybe we can meet on Yahoo messenger”: It was time to start chatting on Yahoo to avoid the suspicion of the authorities

By the time he was ready to take his protest public, Mahmoudi – who was a non-political Libyan businessman before the revolution – had 171, 323 admirers before the internet in Libya was pulled down last Saturday. He may not have found love, but he found an irreplaceable connection with thousands of his fellow countrymen and women.

More on TIME.com:

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If Libya Falls, What Happens to All Those Twitter bit.ly Links?

How To Stage A DIY Mass Protest

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